Saving Lives, Building Resilience

Saving Lives, Building Resilience - Programmes - Oxfam South Africa

Urbanisation is a global trend that has seen an increasing rate of economic, social and environmental consequences. These consequences can bring to a variety of shocks and stresses depending on how urbanisation is managed.

Oxfam South Africa has been in partnership with Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA) since 2009 and is supporting the National and Provincial Disaster Management Centres  (NDMC and PDMC) in  adopting a disaster management people-centered perspective and in community based Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) approach implemented since 2015.  

The Saving Lives Building Resilience programme works in the following areas:

  • Risk Assessment and analysis
  • Disaster management
  • Humanitarian crisis response

How we work:

When a disaster happens, we undertake the following activities:

  • Risk profiling – mapping and understanding the root causes of the risks that people face 
  • Institutional Support – supporting government to improve the risks management governance by helping them develop guidelines for disaster management
  • Thought Leadership – we contribute to advancing discussions on specific issues around displacement and human mobility at regional, national and local level

The Saving Lives, Building Resilience programme seeks to understand the risks that people, especially those in communities vulnerable to poverty and disasters face. We develop plans to help reduce the risk or its potential impact on poor people by reducing vulnerabilities, which can be physical, human, social, political, economic, financial, environmental, and institutional. Trends and other possible underlying factors such as criminality, urbanisation, migration, and technological change are also taken into consideration since they can influence existing vulnerabilities or create new ones.

The programme also works to ensure that government and communities are prepared to cope with these risks which are sometimes inevitable. We work with government and people to promote sustainable resilience government systems and people at risk. We partner with all stakeholders including government at national, provincial and local government level in order to identify and address vulnerable communities needs and build resilience to identified risks. After a needs assessment has been done, we then work as facilitators between government and vulnerable communities.

We partner with government and all other stakeholders in all our work because we believe that transformational change can happen only when you work side by side (influencing) with those whom you want to change. We respond to crises as they unfold and work with partners on the ground to provide immediate solutions to arising humanitarian issues. 

We also work at a global and regional level by participating in the Advisory Committee of the Global Platform on Disaster Displacement and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Disaster management teams.

waste picking

Community Emergency Response Teams

At a local level, Oxfam South Africa has established community volunteers. The Community teams called Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT), in the City of Johannesburg and City of Ekurhuleni are part of the municipal risk management strategy. The community teams are composed of volunteers who serve in the communities where they live, and they have been identified by the same communities ward councillors. The Municipality takes the responsibility of addressing the needs and priorities of the Communities, while recognizing the role of the teams in their own Communities.

The relationship between the municipal Disaster & Emergency Management Services Department and the Community Teams is based on:

(i) mutual recognition of the role of each partner 

(ii) the establishment of a collaborative partnership where the teams mobilize resources and capacities at community level.  

The SLBR program has expanded outside of South Africa and we now support the Mozambique and Madagascar and Comoros governments with disaster management and displacement guidelines and risk assessment.

Saving Lives, Building Resilience - Programmes - Oxfam South Africa

Waste Recycler Project

The Problem

The Department of Environment estimates that there are between 60,000 – 90,000 waste pickers in South Africa while CSIR says there could be as many as 215,000 people in the industry.  Most of the people in waste management are not fully recognised in the formal waste management industry although they collect 80-90% of post- consumer packaging and paper from the waste stream. Their waste picking saves the country up to R750M in landfill space.

Waste recyclers face many challenges including harassment from police, city council workers and people on the streets. 

Our Solution

Oxfam South Africa has been in partnership with National and Local Government since 2009 on Local Economic Development Projects in the waste management sector. This sector allows for environmentally sustainable development that provides jobs, especially for women and migrants. 

As an organisation we believe in both managing and preventing disaster by helping vulnerable groups develop sustainable livelihoods. Our work is about ensuring that waste recyclers are not just recognised as waste collectors but entrepreneurs who sort and sell the waste that they have collected. We seek to help those in this sector promote and sustain separation at source in their community and actively contribute to environmentally sustainable practices by raising awareness about waste management at community level.  

We are part of a pilot project in Benoni and Tembisa, Gauteng  where waste recycling co-ops have been provided with the necessary protective and sorting equipment. They also receive adequate training and capacity building on the business of waste management so they can grow their business. The co-ops have also been given access to land for storage and equipment for sorting waste in the community. We have also worked with the municipality to integrate waste recyclers into the formal municipal waste management system. We are currently work with 56 recycling cooperatives and small businesses.

Oxfam South Africa is one of the founders of the Fair Plastic Alliance; an alliance which shares our vision of a circular economy that promotes the development of a fair plastic value chain. 

For more info on the alliance visit

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